POPULAR legend has it that William Rees Mogg is the first Catholic editor of the Times. In fact, he is the second. William Casey who occupied the editorial chair from 1948 until 1952 was the first.
Not that his religion will make any difference to the paper's policy. Mr. Rees-Mogg says: "It is recognised that people will have their own political and religious sympathies, but there is a clear duty on the Times to maintain a rule of professional impartiality."
He's not saying where he stands politically for the same reason, though the fact that he was Conservative candidate at Chester-lc-Street in 1956 and 1959 nisv Flo! some indication. The Observer last Sunday called him "middle of the road, fascinated by power but not a schemer to get it."
Mr. Rees-Mogg is already plotting changes from his Olympian office in Printing House Square. "The Times is a very good paper." he says, "but it has suffered from a starvation of money. Now we have larger resources. We want to use these so that the paper will generate the revenues it needs, and for that reason those sections of the paper which are capable of this will get more attention."
First under the microscope will be the paper's business coverage. "It is important to retain and expand circulation, particularly among young business men. We want to be the central paper for the majority of people who have responsible jobs."
The famous Times leaders will have a new coat of paint too. "I intend to write quite a few myself, and in general they are going to be more controversial. As a paper of opinion we are going to be very vigorous," says Mr. Rees-Mogg.
As a Christian he describes himself as "broad church". There ''are some spheres where I am progressive and others where I am not. I have a great sympathy for ecumenism, a strong natural affection for the Church of England. I find it very difficult to understand why we shouldn't join in the religious ceremonies of other Churches. In fact, I don't go along with that."
But he also thinks that a lot of people are running themselves into difficulties "with this whole feeling of revolt against the institutional Church. The Catholic Church is the most ancient of the traditional institutions of man, and it is this institutional structure which has preserved Christianity.
"Of course, any institutional structure must be subject to the feeling of the age, as Pope John realised, but once you destroy this structure you may be able to keep a non-institutional Church going for a generation, but not for very much longer."
THE 1967 edition of the Catholic Directory is out this week. and the statistical tables have an interesting tale to tell. Down went the number of secular priests in 1966 to 4,957 as against 5,096 in 1965, but membership of the religious orders was up by 63 to 2,854. The number of converts declined by a couple of thousand which is to be expected now that we have all got round to a proper emphasis on ecumenism.
Baptisms were up, though, to 134,055 and so were marriages by 500. Supposedly, the Catholic population of England and Wales increased during 1966 by 48,000 to 4,048,400, but as those figures are based on a survey carried out years ago they are about as reliable as Old Moore's Almanac. Some statisticians believe that the figure may he as high as ten million.
The Vernacular Society continues to be listed in the section devoted to national organisations and the Latin Mass Society enters the list for the first time.
One wonders what either are doing there. The former has achieved its aim of an English liturgy while the latter is surely the lost cause to end all lost causes. But there's one thing to be said for the publishers: they move fast. The first half of the 5,000 print carried details of an organisation called the "Ladies of Chastity". In the second run this has been changed to "Ladies of Charity".
Wanted; People not money
YOU feel something of a sense of adventure when a letter begins: "I am not appealing for money". So I read on to find that what Mr. George Farrell, vice-president of the Wireless for the Bedridden Society, does want is people.
His society, founded just before the war, provides radio and television sets for the needy, aged, bedridden and housebound. They have 12,000 radios and 700 television sets in circulation and all of them are maintained at no cost to the recipients. In cases of extra hardship the society will also pay the licence fee. It raises money by broadcast appeals — the last one by the Bishop of Coventry raised £10,000 legacies and house collections.
Now Mr. Farrell wants to hear from or about people who could benefit from the facilities his society offers. Requests for a radio or television should be accompanied by a letter from a priest or a well-known charity like the S.V.P. to guarantee that the reqeo.st is genuine, Please write to me, and I will forward all letters.
Bishop's 83 not out
BISHOP PARKER is the first British bishop to offer the Pope his resignation since the Holy Father suggested a retiring age of 75. He was 79 on December 21 and has been a bishop for 26 years.
There is now only one diocesan bishop over 75 in Britain. He is Bishop Brunner of Middlesbrough who is 77. The senior bishop, however, is Bishop Craven, Cardinal Heenan's auxiliary at Westminster. At 83 he has been a priest for 55 years. Oldest of the "under 75s" is Bishop Wall of Brentwood who will be 73 in February.
Scotland cannot boast a 75-year-old in its hierarchy, though Bishop Black of Paisley is coming up. He, too, will be 73 this year. Ireland, however, has six bishops over 75 and six more in their sixties.
And right at the other end of the scale is Bishop Russell of Waterford, who has 28 years to go before he is 75, beating Bishop Worlock of Portsmouth by a neck. Bishop Worlock is eleven months his senior.
Advice for Dr Graham
DR. BILLY GRAHAM's next British Crusade is planned for June, and, says the Church of England Newspaper, it will need "more imagination and better editing than the last one if it is not to invite polite amusement."
The paper bases its comment on the results of a survey which it launched last November. A questionnaire was completed by 68 clergymen who sup ported the 1966 crusade and 211 lay people. They "expressed much criticism of the crusade 'service'," says the article. "Plainly, the pedestrian programme, unchanged since 1954, was inadequate for London 1966.
"These criticisms suggest improvements for the projected 1967 Crusade. But they also suggest that evangelism must go a little deeper than the Crusade method allows. Crusade evangelism is a little like crop spraying; it is all right as far as it goes, but proper cultivation requires a ground-level approach."
The survey showed that a follow-up approach was welcomed by the great majority of those referred to the 68 clergy-1,037 out of 1,317—and just over half the inquirers are now worshipping members of a congregation.
Vital information for Christian Unity week: The street which joins the new Catholic Cathedral at Liverpool with the Gothic Anglican Cathedral is called Hope Street.
A real shocker
RIGHT in the middle of Unity Week comes a real shocker from the Free Church of Scotland. Their Report on Public Questions contains enough fearful indictments to make the bravest among us shake.
"Nineteen sixty-six was the year in which Parliament attempted to stamp the foul brand of Sodom upon the nation's brow," it says; the year when the future of mankind was being decided in "the broilerhouse minds of eugenists and abortionists;" when advertising was "thrusting its Jezebel face at us at every turn;" and when the Papacy, "the greatest spiritual tyranny ever to appear on this earth", continued unchecked.
Quaking, I 'phoned the man who drafted these sentiments, the Rev. Neil Macleod of Glasgow. To my relief he turned out to be charming and softspoken. "In fact," he told me, "all I was saying on the question of unity with the Roman Catholic Church is that it is no use pretending the cleavage is not as wide as it is."
And what about the Biblical turn of phrase, I asked Mr. Macleod? "The report was intended primarily for the Free Church, and this is, of course, the sort of language they are well versed in," he replied.
For those not so well versed, my dictionary gives the meaning of "eugenist" as one who believes in "the development and improvement of offspring, especially human offspring, through judicious breeding."
Opposite the other place
"NICK'S Movable Feasts specialise in provid ing ready-cooked three-course dinner-party dishes which you just heat up in your own oven" the advert said. So I phoned Nick, not to order a three-course etc., etc., but to find out where he got the name from.
Alas, I have to report that he did not lift it from the Roman Calendar of Saints' Days but from Hemingway's book "A Movable Feast". Nick also owns "Nick's Diner" and soon he will be opening a new noshery called "The Place Opposite". I asked him why it was called that. "Because it's opposite 'Nick's Diner', of course," he replied.